The Blessing of Opportunities

During weekly devotions, Mr. Danish discussed the three things parents most desire in their child’s school: safety, opportunity and happiness. He also shared how ICS meets those needs for God’s glory. This blog about opportunities is the second in a series about what parents look for most in their childrens’ school experience, and how ICS exceeds those needs.

The blessing (and, sometimes, the curse) of living in the Northern Virginia area are the opportunities offered. As a parent, for example, you have the opportunity to schlep your children from school in Springfield, to lacrosse in Annandale, then guitar practice in McLean before piling back into the car and returning to your house in Burke. And, given the glories of rush hour traffic here, it may only take you five hours.

All School Photo 2011-12 JPGToday, culture seems to ask: what can you do for me that no one else can? It doesn’t feel like being just an average student or doing the same job day in and day out for thirty years is enough anymore. This puts pressure on our young people—how can I be BETTER than everyone else? What sets me apart? What am I not doing that I should be doing to get ahead? It’s stressful for the child…but it’s also stressful for you as the parent. Measuring up to the world’s ever-changing definition of success is exhausting, unfulfilling and ultimately unattainable.

At ICS, we recognize your desire to give your child every possible opportunity to thrive. But we also want to reassure you: God has a plan for your children. He has ordered their steps and gifted them specifically in ways that will bring glory to Him. It is our honor as a school to shepherd them and cultivate these abilities. When you take the world’s empty promises out of the equation and replace them with the truth of I Corinthians 12: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone, you gain the reassurance that whichever path your child pursues, if he is doing it for the glory of God, he is successful.

kindergarten countingWe asked several students what they thought of ICS, what opportunities they believe it has afforded them, and a particular memory that stands out to them as a favorite from this year. Their responses reinforced our mission as a school: inspiring purposeful lives of learning, godliness and service. We do this by grounding our students in the Lord while teaching them to be good stewards of the abilities they have been given…and, oh yeah, to enjoy their education.

Thomas is in kindergarten at ICS. He lists “Star Wars…the one with the Ewoks” as his favorite movie and when he’s not at school, he likes to go home to build his Ewok village. Thomas attended another school for preschool, but says ICS is his favorite “because we get a treat every Monday.” What makes ICS unique is “probably in other schools they don’t have token stores, like third grade does. My brother (third grader Daniel) got me this motorcycle game!” His very favorite thing that his class did this year was “the field trip that we went on. We got to go on a hayride.” When he is not in class (or building an Ewok village!), Thomas is very involved in the after-school activities ICS offers. In just six months he has already been in Minecraft Club, Chess Club and Soccer Shots! All typical opportunities for a kindergartener, except this student is eager and excited about learning because his kindergarten experience is designed specifically to stimulate exploration and imagination through experiences.

Playground 023Hope is a first grader this year, her first year at ICS after moving from Florida. Hope’s favorite things are “pizza” and “watching TV.” Her favorite movie is Open Season 3. Hope enjoys coming to ICS “because every day, we get extra recess!” She thinks that ICS is set apart from other schools because “they do not have playgrounds like ours.” Unsurprisingly, her favorite thing she’s gotten to do so far this year is “play on the playground. And, we get dress down days!” Hope’s answers reflect what we design for our first graders: that they are introduced to school in a way that is positive and exhilarating, so that they look forward to coming to school each day.

Kiley is a second grader this year and states that she is “kind of a science kid.” She is an avid reader whose favorite book she remembers as one “about crystals that I read in kindergarten.” She enjoys coming to school because she “loves to learn.” She believes what sets ICS apart from other schools is “lots of school spirit!” Her favorite activity that she’s been a part of this year is the Fossil Hunt Field TriFossil Hunt 12-13 017p. Mr. Danish, our Head of School, took both second grade classes out to search for fossils in correspondence with their unit on dinosaur bones. After school, Kiley will often be found curled up on the comfiest chair in the library with a book on whatever science she’s most interested in that week.
Grace is a third grader enjoying her second year at ICS. She is a skilled ballerina who performed over multiple nights in The Nutcracker with the Washington School of Ballet this Christmas. When she’s not rehearsing, she likes to ride her bike and play with her little sister, Faith. Her favorite subject in Mrs. Harris’ class is “Social Studies—because we get to learn about Indians.” Her favorite reason to come to school is “because I get to see my friends and learn a lot so I can graduate from college” (then adding “wait…you don’t have to put that last part!”). When asked what differentiates ICS from other schools, she says, “We have uniforms. We have Bible classes. We have great security guards.” Grace’s favorite thing that she’s done this year is “Serve-A-Thon, because we got to ride in a giant tractor called ‘The Gator’ at Hidden Pond Park,” where they spent the afternoon mulching and cleaning the nature center’s grounds. Like many ICS families, Grace’s family is often busy with the demands of after school extracurricular activities—aside from being an ICS faculty member, her mom also put on the ICS Christmas play, coached cross country, and tutors after school— but demonstrates beautifully how to fully invest in the body of Christ at ICS.

Mya is a fourth grader and the youngest of three, all of whom attended ICS. She enjoys eating fried rice, playing softball, reading and writing. Mya is a straight-A student who has cultivated a love of scripture by hiding God’s Word in her heart each quarter. Like her older sister, she is also Web Photos 056lightning fast during PE….and when doing her multiplication tables. Despite these gifts, Mya is a humble student known for her work ethic and kindness to her classmates. She looks forward to coming to school each day “because I like to write and read and listen.” In her mind, what makes ICS different from other schools is Bible class, taught the Lower School Bible Teacher, Mrs. Lubenec, supported by our classroom Teacher Assistants. The highlight of fourth grade for Mya so far has been making Virginia clay maps. She says, “at home we made clay, and then we brought it here and made the surface of Virginia [to see] how it feels.” Our fourth grade teachers bring Virginia history to life through varied and engaging instruction. This creative approach sparks intellectual curiosity in our students.

481V0042Saul is a fifth grade student who likes to hang with his friends and ride his Ripstik. He is also a big fan of game shows like Family Feud and eating bacon cheeseburgers. Saul was homeschooled for three years before making the transition to ICS last year. He says he looks forward to coming to school each day “because I get to see my friends and I think it’s fun to learn.” His teacher this year is Ms. Willis, who is “good at English and teaches it very well.” What sets ICS apart from other schools in Saul’s mind is that here, “you get to really talk about God and the teachers are really nice. They will really talk to you.” Between the Julius Caesar play, Greek myth puppet show, firehouse CIA project and Egyptian research unit, fifth grade is a busy year. Saul says his favorite event so far was “probably the Egypt Museum because that was pretty fun. You got to research all about a topic and then present to people.” Saul is a strong student and has thrived throughout his first year in our Upper School, due in large part to teachers who love the subjects they teach and who actually enjoy teaching.

Tommy is in sixth grade this year, his seventh year overall at ICS. His class just returned from a field trip to the National Cathedral—where he was particularly impressed by the Darth Vader gargoyle. When he’s not at school, he likes to read. His favorite movie is Interstellar and his favorite food is pizza. Tommy is an exceptional student but he’s also all about having fun. He looks forward to coming to school every day because of lunch, of all things! So far this year, he’s most enjoyed the basketball unit in PE with Mr. Briggs and Mrs. Fisher. Reflecting back over all his years at ICS, his favorite events have been the End of Quarter Points Parties because they are, you guessed it, “fun!” These years are marked by increased peer influence, students test boundaries and seek ways to exert independence which is why it is critical to have teachers who are mentors and help shape students minds and hearts.

Spencer is a seventh grade student who has attended ICS since kindergarten. In those eight years, he lists field trips to the White House, Gettysburg and Williamsburg as highlights. He’s eaten his fill at the annual school picnics and community fundraiser nights at Chipotle. He’s played in the Homecoming basketball game and in total has participated in seven seasons of competitive ICS sports. He belted out a song from Les Misérables at the school talent show, presented a project on how rhythm affects heart rate at the sixth grade Science Fair and he scores First Honors every quarter. By all accounts, Spencer is thriving at school here. When asked what he believes sets ICS apart from other academic choices his parents could have made, Spencer said he enjoys ICS because it’s “educationally advanced” in a “Christian environment.”

Lobby2Elizabeth is an eighth grader who has attended ICS since second grade. Next year she plans to attend West Springfield High School (go Spartans!). Elizabeth has received First Honors each quarter that she’s been an Upper School student, indicating not only her intelligence but also her diligence inside the classroom. She runs cross country and plays lacrosse for ICS and has taken ice skating lessons after school. This month, she is heading to The Foxcroft School with Science Teacher Mrs. Alvarado for a STEM event which challenges and encourages girls to reach their full potential in the fields of science and math. She has appreciated her years at ICS because she “gets to be in a Christian environment.” Along those lines, Elizabeth believes that is what sets ICS apart from other schools, saying, “I think that it’s more protected because there are Christians here and at public schools they don’t teach you how to grow in your faith to be strong.” The best thing she has done this year has been “Wilderness—because I got to connect with my class like a family and we learned things about each other that we haven’t noticed before.” In a year marked by much change: a new high school on the horizon, more rigorous work, growing from kid to teen, the Wilderness trip led by ICS faculty and staff serves as an excellent reminder of the importance of both community and time alone with God.

For all these reasons listed, and more, are what we want students (and parents) to recall when they reflect on ICS. We want to challenge students, grow them and help them uncover the strengths they have been uniquely gifted with by the Lord. We want this for our students, not to cram them into the box the culture defines as success, but help them discover the path the Lord wants for them.

We are fulfilling God’s purpose for ICS by helping our students uncover and cultivate His purpose for them.

We’d love to hear your reflections about ICS. Click to share your thoughts!